The Story of Penguin Books And Indian Crow

I studied in Marathi medium school till 7th standard and semi-English from 8th standard onward (i.e. Science and Maths were taught in English. History, Geography etc were in Marathi). I started learning English in as late as 5th Standard (Age 9 yrs). Till then I didn’t know even A,B,C,D…it sounds strange now but yes that’s the reality.

However I was instantly fascinated by English language. My grandfather used to teach me at home. In standard 10th (my grandfather had passed away a couple of years earlier), I joined tuition for English at an elderly teacher (retired and almost same age of grandfather). He recently passed away and I wrote a blog in Marathi in his memory. He played an important role in my liking for English language and literature.

After starting English lessons in standard 5th, I did not read much of English outside the textbooks, till standard 9th or so. Since 9th standards I slowly started reading English literature – typical journey of a vernacular medium kid – Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, P.G.Wodehouse, Freedom at Midnight, Malgudi Days etc. (that junk called “Chetan Bhagat” and “Amish Tripathi” et al had not arrived in those days. Even Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things” was still 3-4 years away. Khushwant Singh and to some extent Shobha De, were the popular Indian English writers. VS Naipual was available in plenty at British Library ). My English reading speed was very poor (it still is). And I could not read multiple English books in parallel (that has changed now).

To satiate my appetite for English books I joined British Library in Pune. In those days it was a matter of pride to be a member and carry thick books. Their collection was limited – mainly British authors. I didn’t realise it back then since I had no exposure to English literature. So I used to issue whatever was available at British Library. But soon I realised that many books are not available there; so I started searching at street-side second-hand books (there are quite a few in Pune). And the first thing I noticed was books published by Penguin Books.

They had a distinct and consistent style of books – paperback, orange strip at top and bottom and a logo of Penguin.

PenguinCollectionPenguinStack

What caught my attention in all those books was their last page – a one page write-up which talked about how Penguin Books was started. The very first line read:

He just wanted a decent book to read…

That beginning was very catchy…and then the story went on to reveal that in those days there used to be only hardback books. Paperbacks didn’t exist or were not commonplace. So Allen Lane started Penguin Books to provide people with quality paperback books at a low price.

It was probably because of this story that I liked Penguin Books and read many of them. Penguin played a key role in early years of my journey of English reading.

Since last few years the look of Penguin books has changed. And the last page is no longer there. I checked many new books and couldn’t find the story. So I was eagerly trying to find it online. And fortunately I found it! Here is the last page story I was referring to.

penguin-story.jpg

Similar to Allen Lane I too feel that there are some specific issues in the Publishing industry which need to be resolved immediately. Particularly, in Indian context. So I also have a dream (yes, as of now it’s only a dream, not Goal; because Goal is nothing but a Dream with deadline) to start a publishing company. I have even thought of a name.

Indian Crow

Indian Crow
Indian Crow

The logo would be on lines of Penguin Logo

You may feel that the name is purely inspired by Penguin Books. To some extent it is. But there is also a personal connection in choosing the name “Indian Crow”. People close to me might have guessed by now… 🙂

 

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